Hollywood : Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park featured a lot of computer generated images and it was one of the first movies to show SGI computers on screen.



These first pictures show what the movie has become famous for: Computer generated animations of dinosaurs. For the time the graphics were really impressing and even today they still look very good.

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The movie shows several rooms of the facility on the island, including a laboratory and a "Control Room" that is stuffed with computer equipment.

Movie SceneThis image (follow the link for a big version) makes a good overview of the control room. Very obvious are the CM-5 systems made by Thinking Machines that build the background with their black cases and red lights. This most likely are only empty shells with some logic to control the blinking lights and not real computers. The first Silicon graphics system is fairly easy to spot. It is an IRIS Indigo (Elan) and it is standing just behind the back of the guy that is sitting in the foreground. To it's left is a monitor that supposedly belongs to the Apple computer that stands even more to the left. The famous Crimson is located on the right edge of the picture and is only partially visible. On the desk beside it where the guy is sitting and staring at a monitor there is another Apple system. The Silicon Graphics systems may just be empty cases - at least they aren't switched on. This is easy to tell because the LEDs are off although they should be recognizable like the ones on the monitors or keyboards. All other equipment is unknown, the pizzaboxes could be Suns but I don't recognize the model. Most of the monitors shown in this room have an Silicon Graphics logo on them.

he next set of screenshots show the Crimson. This is as close as the camera gets to the system and as mentioned earlier the status LED is off indicating that the system is not running or not a real one at all.

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Movie SceneThis screenshot is quite interesting. It shows the monitor that is located next to the Crimson while the guys are trying to figure out what is wrong with the security system. Aside from the cube logo there are 2 interesting things to note:

In the shell window it says "Jurassic Park, System Security Interface Version 4.0.5, Alpha E". The version number is probably based on IRIX 4.0.5 which was the current version at the time of the movie. The window below is from gr_osview and this shows 4 CPU activity bars which means that it is definetly not running on the Crimson.

The picture on the left side is not part of the display, it is on the monitor as you could see on previous images.

Towards the end of the movie the kids use the computer to lock the doors. This is the great moment of fsn ("fusion") the File System Navigator which is a real demo application and was not written for the movie. A binary was available from the official Silicon Graphics website for a long time.

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The ending credits of the movie show the following in a list of "thank yous":


Making Of

The making of movie which comes with the DVD of "Jurassic Park" does not show very much of the computer technology that was used. There is a short scene though that shows one of the computer rooms of ILM. It is full of PowerSeries systems - if the color code of the skins is correct most of them have VGX graphics and only a few GTX.

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The movie contains a lot of information on how the animation were created. What they tested and how they finally ended up using CGI. There are some screenshots that show a bit of the software side.


Press Release

The following piece is a press release from Silicon Graphics relating to the SGI / Jurassic Park connection. It was also published in IRIS OnLine Volume 1, Issue 2:

On June 9, Silicon Graphics, Inc. announced that director Steven Spielberg's film "Jurassic Park" marks the first time 3D graphics computers are an integral part of a major motion picture. Released June 11, 1993, "Jurassic Park" is based on Michael Crichton's best selling novel about dinosaurs that are genetically recreated for the ultimate theme park. Both on-screen and behind the scenes, Silicon Graphics' computer systems are used extensively to add scientific realism to the film.

Silicon Graphics workstations are a critical element of Jurassic Park's computer control room, the "eyes and ears" of the technologically advanced theme park. Traditionally, computer graphics have been used in films only as pre-recorded video on computer monitors. In "Jurassic Park" the control room is a live, working computing environment featuring real applications that visually enhance the story line. Computer systems are used in the film for everything from monitoring security systems and activity around the island to visualizing DNA in the laboratory.

"Because Silicon Graphics workstations are used by scientists and engineers to visualize and interpret complex data, existing software applications were easily modified for use in the film," said Harry Pforzheimer, director of corporate communications at Silicon Graphics. "Programs like EarthWatch Communications' EarthWatch(tm), which interprets weather data, and a 3D information navigator from Silicon Graphics, which lets users graphically fly through computer file system representations, provided perfect solutions to enhance the story line." Silicon Graphics provided 3D graphics workstations with a value of nearly one million dollars to Amblin Entertainment, and technical assistance over a four-month period. These systems included four Indigo(tm) RISC PCs, seven Indigo Elan(tm) workstations, two IRIS(r) 4D/440 VGXT graphics workstations and four IRIS Crimson(tm) workstations. Silicon Graphics technical support provided immediate solutions for typical challenges that occur with filming computer graphics displays, such as frame rate synchronization and color correction.

"In addition to creating this realistic environment in the computer control room, the Silicon Graphics systems are integral to the plot, enabling graphic interpretation of information rather than forced dialogue," said Michael Backes, Display Graphics Supervisor on "Jurassic Park" and Co-chair of the American Film Institute Computer Center. "Silicon Graphics' extensive support enabled the control room scenes to be completed three days ahead of schedule and well under budget."

In addition to using systems on-screen, Industrial Light & Magic created Jurassic Park's full motion dinosaurs on Silicon Graphics workstations. ILM and Silicon Graphics have been working together since 1987 and recently announced JEDI, the largest and most advanced production environment for digital imagery creation in the entertainment industry. More than 70 Silicon Graphics workstations are being used for computer graphics at the ILM facility, ranging from the desktop IRIS Indigo family to the Onyx(tm) graphics supercomputer, which provides the world's fastest computer graphics.

Next Movies

Jurassic Park 3

The following screenshots from the bonus material of the Jurassic Park 3 DVD. In the first snapshot a Silicon Graphics O2 can be seen to the right of the monitor. It is sitting on the desktop, a few papers are stacked on top of it.

The following tho screenshots show closeups of the IRIX desktop in different situations while designing the special effects for the movie.